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Flop photo

Jem and the Holograms made no money so now it's gone

Seriously, it made no money
Nov 10
// Matthew Razak
There are flops and then there are flops. Jem and the Holograms is the latter. It didn't just flop for Universal it broke records while doing it. The movie pulled in just $1.37 million its opening weekend, and could...

Review: Jem and the Holograms

Oct 23 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220058:42666:0[/embed] Jem and the HologramsDirector: Jon M. ChuRated: PGRelease Date: October 23, 2015 What I want to believe is that Jem and the Holograms is really an incredibly smart meta film about our current culture and it's emotional immaturity caused by split second reactions on social media. I want to believe that so badly, but more likely it's just a incredibly sloppy screenplay and forced direction that takes what could have been a decent story and turns it into the worst mish-mash of story lines since the original Casino Royale (that film at least works as camp). We meet Jerrica (Aubrey Peeples), a painfully shy teenager, and her sisters: Kimber (Stefanie Scott), Shana (Aurora Perrineau) and Aja (Hayley Kiyoko). A musically talented group, they live with their mother (Molly Ringwald). When Jerrica records herself singing a song and Kimber uploads it to the Internet it goes viral overnight and big time record producer Erica Raymond (Julliette Lewis) steps in to sign Jerrica, now known as Jem, to a record deal. Of course becoming big and famous leads to terribly traumatic events over the next month (yes, only a month) and soon everything starts falling apart even though Jem is falling for the totally dreamy son of Erica, Rio (Ryan Guzman). Also, there's a toy robot that Jem's father made sending her on a secret quest. You know, because the plot wasn't random enough. At first glance one may think that the cliche plot and groan worthy moments -- such as the four girls and Rio kicking into a random sing along after committing a crime -- are intentional. The film makes heavy use of social media and maybe a commentary on the web's short attention span is why they've condensed the normal "band gets together/band falls apart" into only a month of time. Characters go from best friends to mortal enemies to apologizing to each other in the span of an hour. It is the most ludicrously paced and plotted film I've seen in a long while and I kept telling myself it had to be intentional; it had to be a social commentary of some sort. But it isn't because it never makes a point. Jem and her sisters never turn to the camera and admit they're just terrible people. The movie is just plain bad. The plot careens from one random occurrence to another attempting to show... something. Instead it just fulfills cliches. A bunch of privileged teenagers struggle with their inability to get along for a single month. One month! That's all it takes for Jem to fall apart at the hands of all the pressure she's feeling by being torn into two personas (Jem and Jerrica) and getting lots of money. It would be infuriating if it wasn't so laughable. Every time the movie even attempts to make an emotional connection between characters it feels feeble and pointless since Jem and her sister's emotions are about as stable as a table with uneven legs.  Maybe all that would have been OK for Jon M. Chu had directed the movie with any panache at all. Instead it feels like he's bored with it and just checking off every request from the studio for a movie that will appeal to teens. Instead of playing up the camp -- aside from a single (and fantastic) teaser at the end -- Chu takes his bi-polar characters far too seriously. More importantly, the man responsible for making dance movies fun with his stellar direction of dance numbers can't seem to direct his way through a single musical sequence in this film. The entire thing is sloppy and devoid of any tone. Chu could have at least put in a few scenes of the band working together or something to make it feel like times is passing, but instead he wastes the almost two hour (!) running time on repeating the same scene over and over. We get it. Jem and Jerrica are two different people. When a Saturday morning cartoon involving a woman literally projecting a different person on top of herself handles this metaphor better than you do then you've got serious problems. Throw in a strange plot line about Jem's father and the mystical robot Synergy, that was clearly just added to appeal to fans of the cartoon, and you've got a mess no director could piece together, but that Chu does a horrifically bad job of.  It's all too bad because somewhere in there is a movie that could have worked. The hints at camp are there during some of the more ridiculous parts, the musical numbers could have worked with a bit more effort, and with just a bit of ironing out and trimming down the film could have felt like something mattered. Chu even uses a neat trick by inter-cutting YouTube musician's music and videos into the movie as a sort of soundtrack. Unfortunately instead of being innovative it feels forced and tacky like the rest of the film. Eventually they even use YouTuber's videos talking about the influence of the Jem cartoon on them to make it appear they're talking about the life changing film Jem. Again, this all takes place over the matter of a month.  Jem and the Holograms is a mess. It's confusing and directionless and by trying to appeal to everyone appeals to no one. Somewhere, buried deep within this film, is a cult classic that cries to be let out right at the end, but was lost at some point between shoving in a robot mystery and forcing a creepy romance between a possibly underage teen and a college intern.   
Jem photo
Truly, truly outrageously terrible
I have memories of the 80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms. They aren't fond and they aren't bad, they just are. A movie based on the show didn't really get me excited in that way that most nostalgia does, but I could see how i...

FlixList: The 8 Best Steven Universe Episodes

Sep 18 // Matt Liparota
Space Race (Episode 28) What makes this episode memorable to me—aside from its enticing premise, adorable montages, and chillingly sweet conclusion—is what it has to say about Pearl. Up to this point, most of the episodes (surprisingly) have been about Pearl, but this is the first one where we begin to understand who Pearl really is. She may seem stuck up and prissy, but she’s more nostalgic for her old home than her new life on Earth. We’ve all been Pearl in this situation before, where missing our old previous life brings us some comfort, but it’s in the small moments in the here and now that we find not only more comfort, but fulfillment too. In future episodes, Pearl’s anxieties are portrayed in a much more antagonistic light, but in "Space Race," for just a moment, Pearl feels more human than she ever has before or since. For Steven Universe to follow up one of its biggest high stakes episodes with one of its softer character pieces shows a strong restraint on the part of the writers and artists, as well as fundamental understanding of their own characters' needs. Plus this episode features some of the absolute best background music in the series to date. -- John-Charles Holmes [embed]219932:42620:0[/embed] Tiger Millionaire (Episode 9) Given how far the show has come in the past year, you'd be surprised to know that Steven Universe was off to a rough start. I was grabbed by the premise, and that cute "Cookie Cat" jam for sure, but SU took a few episodes to get its feet on the ground. About seven episodes in, with the introduction of his best friend Connie in "Bubble Buddies," the show really found its own voice. While I almost put that episode on this list, the show first combined sublime humor with deep storytelling in "Tiger Millionaire." You wouldn't think a wrestling pastiche, where Steven becomes the ultimate heel (the titular "Millionaire"), would be full of brilliant character work, but this is just an example of the many surprises the show is full of. Like its parent series Adventure Time, this episode proved that Steven Universe could too provide a thematically rich through line (as you realize Amethyst is wresting for a hidden, personable reason) while never forgetting it's a show for kids. It's also got everything the best SU episodes have: a killer soundtrack, the Beach City townspeople, and some great one liners. Now there's no sodas for anybody.   -- Nick Valdez [embed]219932:42617:0[/embed] Steven and the Stevens (Episode 22)  Time-travel is pretty well-worn territory for any kind of high-concept, vaguely sci-fi storytelling, so it’s no surprise that Steven Universe eventually went to that well. Leave it to Steven to put its own unique spin on the trope, though; after very briefly dabbling in trying to alter history, Steven decides to form a boy band…with himself. It falls apart within all of 30 seconds, as the “original” Steven quickly realizes how annoying he can be, which leads to a battle across time culminating in a scene in which literally dozens of Stevens disintegrate into nothing in probably the creepiest way possible (for a lighthearted kids’ show). “Steven and the Stevens” isn’t the most monumentally important episode of Steven Universe, not by a long shot, but it’s one of my favorites. It’s a prime example of the show firing on all cylinders, taking a core concept and playing it out in a way that feels both fresh and completely true to the characters involved (the scene where the four Stevens try and figure out their band personas cracks me up every single time). It’s also got one of the earliest instances of Steven Universe being just great at musical numbers (give or take a Giant Woman). -- Matt Liparota  [embed]219932:42618:0[/embed] Island Adventure (Episode 30) Man, this episode holds a lot of feelings for me. First of all, SU was so confident in its audience that it was willing to capitalize on Lars and Sadie's relationship and hoped you caught all the action happening on the sidelines. There's such a deft amount of work done between the characters through background interactions with Steven that they feel like real people. It all came to a head here as Lars, Sadie, and Steven are trapped on a mysterious island and Steven plays the tune "Be Wherever You Are." Not only is the montage great, but the song's lyrics and musicality are well crafted. A personal bit: I moved from Texas to New York a few months ago and this song was the first thing I listened to as song as I touched down.  I was a nervous wreck, and the song helped me calm down a little bit. It's such a beautiful message. Don't stress and just be wherever, whoever, and whatever you are. -- Nick Valdez [embed]219932:42624:0[/embed] Jail Break (Episode 52)  Okay, so let’s get the “big” stuff out of the way, the huge mythology stuff that puts this episode in any top 10 all on its own. First, you’ve got the gem-shattering reveal that Garnet is actually a fusion of two heretofore-unknown-gems, Ruby and Sapphire (something fans had long theorized and is blatantly obvious in retrospect) – in essence, she’s a living relationship. That’s immediately followed up by an incredible musical number-turned-fight sequence, “Stronger Than You,” which manages to feel climactic, expository and emotional all at once; the fact that it’s a legitimately great piece that you want to listen to over and over again certainly doesn’t hurt.  Ultimately, though, that’s not really what the episode is about. Like so much of Steven Universe, this episode touches on what makes Steven himself unique and indispensable, not just as a Crystal Gem but as a person. It’s only because of Steven’s unique status as a gem-human hybrid that he’s able to escape and set the entire episode in motion, as well as attack Peridot head-on when the time comes. Steven has all kinds of amazing abilities, but his real super-power is his big, human heart – something that the Crystal Gems have learned over the course of the series, and something that villainous Jasper can’t seem to fathom. Ultimately, that’s the heart of Steven Universe – one sensitive little boy who loves with all his heart and will do anything for his friends (and maybe even his enemies). -- Matt Liparota [embed]219932:42623:0[/embed] Winter Forecast (Episode 42)  Steven Universe, by its very nature of being a cartoon, is all about visual storytelling. The thing about getting this kind of storytelling just right is that you have to carefully nail all the little details. Not only does "Winter Forecast" do this, but the episode is all about the little details you can see. In this episode, Garnet bestows Steven with temporary “future vision” (the ability to see the future by seeing all possible outcomes before they happen) as an approaching snowstorm threatens to keep the Universe family from getting Steven’s best friend Connie home safely. What follows is a sequence of events of how things could go more and more horribly wrong with the more irresponsible decisions Steven could choose to make. What links these decisions together are small yet incredibly memorable details that makes for an episode full of subtle unforgettable moments—Greg’s cherry sweater (I’m the cherry man!), puddles freezing over into slick patches of ice, and even small unspoken glances between characters. The details come together to tell a cohesive story that makes even the viewers at home feel like they can really see the future. Top it off with one of the sweetest and by far quietest moments in all of Steven Universe, and you’ve got one of the best episodes of the entire show that reminds you that big moments are made from little details… as long as you’re always willing to give them a chance. -- John-Charles Holmes [embed]219932:42619:0[/embed] Alone Together (Episode 37)  My favorite character by far is Connie. I like to joke with my friends and say that someday I'd hope to have a friendship that's as great as Steven and Connie's, and that's because Connie's such a well realized character. She's not relgated to the romantic interest in Steven's hero's journey and he needs her just as much as she needs him. All of that comes to a head with "Alone Together." An experiment in SU's already established gender fluidity, sex metaphors (as the Steven half of their fused form constantly checks to make sure Connie is comfortable), and character relations, the two kids fuse together and it's as awkward as you'd think. It's such a natural trajectory for their relationship too as the two enjoy being "not one being, not two beings, but an experience" and only find fault with it when one of them is truly uncomfortable. The thing of it is, it's played straight. The fact that a boy and girl are the same person isn't mined for jokes and it's a serious discussion about identity. That's way more than any kids cartoon has done thus far. -- Nick Valdez Joy Ride (Episode 54) Much like its spiritual successor Adventure Time, one of the best things about Steven Universe is its extensive cast of colorful secondary characters, and the show has spent a lot of time developing and connecting them in unexpected ways. Beach City’s surly, rebellious teens are just a handful of those characters, and they also happen to be unexpectedly hilarious, going back to their first appearance in “Lars and the Cool Kids.” “Joy Ride” takes that development a step further, adding some real shading to characters who by this point had largely been rather broad. One of the best things about Steven Universe is the way that secondary characters’ initial impression of Steven is that he’s just a naive, goofy kid, but as they spend more time with him they realize just how infectious his enthusiasm for life is. This episode is perhaps the pinnacle of that – the Cool Kids all have semi-normal teen problems, but they pale in comparison to Steven’s burdens post-“Jail Break” – but as they note, his upbeat attitude almost never wavers. Despite first appearances, Steven’s not naive - he’s got real problems that put ours to shame - but he’s not going to get swallowed up by despair, either. “Joy Ride” is, if nothing else, a fun demonstration of how much depth the show’s secondary characters have gained since the show began. -- Matt Liparota
Best Steven Universe photo
Keep Beach City weird
In the nearly two years since it first debuted, Steven Universe has done something few kids' shows do. Created by Adventure Time alum Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe is a show that manages to be fun, hilarious, exciting but al...

Mary Poppins reboot photo
Mary Poppins reboot

Disney rebooting Mary Poppins, going to need lots of sugar

Sep 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Have you been clamoring for a Mary Poppins sequel? No? Well, too bad. Disney is rebooting Mary Poppins with Into the Woods director Rob Marshall at the helm, The film will take place 20 years after the original movie, and wil...

Disney's Gigantic photo
Disney's Gigantic

Disney working on Jack and the Beanstalk animated musical, Gigantic

Aug 17
// Nick Valdez
Along with all the Star Wars and live action reboot first looks, last weekend's D23 Expo also revealed a good amount of Disney's in the works projects. One of the more exciting to pop out was Disney Animation's next film, Gig...
Lonely Island filming photo
Lonely Island filming

The Lonely Island movie has begun filming

Maybe they're on a boat
May 14
// Matthew Razak
It's been a while since we've heard news on the Lonely Island's upcoming movie, but now that we have we're once again excited. The movie now has a title... we think. Top Secret Untitled Lonely Island Movie may just be a ...

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone may star in La La Land

Whiplash-director returns with a musical love story
Apr 14
// Per Morten Mjolkeraaen
It seems baby-papa, Ryan Gosling, and all-around-charmer, Emma Stone can't keep their hands off each other, with Crazy, Stupid, Love and Gangster Squad behind them, they are now in talks to star in Damien Chazelle's next movi...
Frozen 2 photo
Not letting go
Buzzing has been non-stop about Disney releasing a sequel to Frozen, but we've never received word that it was actually going to happen. Now we have it. On the same call that delivered plenty of Star Wars details it was ...

Pitch Perfect 2  photo
Pitch Perfect 2

Newest Pitch Perfect 2 trailer is almost perfect

Feb 11
// Nick Valdez
I'm still very much as excited for Pitch Perfect 2 as I was in our staff's Most Anticipated of 2015 list, but this newest trailer for it worries me a bit. Sure it's got the same lovable 80s movie cheese (lol European super g...
Pitch Perfect 2 Spot photo
Pitch Perfect 2 Spot

Super Bowl TV spot for Pitch Perfect 2

Feb 02
// Nick Valdez
I've been worried about Pitch Perfect 2 since it was announced a few years ago. I really liked the first one (enough to watch it several times), and a lot of the humor just kind of *clicked* with me. But the more I watched i...

Review: Into the Woods

Dec 28 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218767:42088:0[/embed] Into the WoodsDirector: Rob MarshallRelease Date: December 25th, 2014 Rating: PG Based of the Stephen Sondheim stage musical, Into the Woods is five different fairy tales weaved together into one plot. Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) wants to go to a festival but is afraid of Prince Charming (Chris Pine), Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) trades some magic beans for his cow and ends up stealing from a giant, Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) wants to visit her grandma but gets stopped by the Wolf (Johnny Depp), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) is stuck in a tower, and a poor Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) can't have a child until they gather important items from these stories for the Witch (Meryl Streep) who's put a curse on their house.  Director Rob Marshall once directed one my favorite musical adaptations, Chicago. But while that film kept some of the bombastic nature of the original stage version, it was toned down in most areas out of a self-inflicted need to keep the film grounded. When that film broke out one of its numbers, it was relegated to a dream sequence far and away from the "real" world. While I've never seen the Into the Woods stage play myself (and thus this is one of the few times I have no experience with a musical before it gets adapted), I was once again worried that these woven fairy tales would lose their mysticism and be grounded in some way. I was way off the mark there. Finally exploiting the inherent wackiness of every musical, Woods is a big, showy representation of what musicals can really do. While the lack of unsung dialogue (until the final third of the film) may throw a few people off as there are no clear starts and stops, it's impossible not to get swept up in the fun.  And there's so much fun to be had from Woods. While the staging itself is a bit small (instead of coming off as intimate, it's stifling when each of these bombastic musical numbers occurs within such a confined area), the cast uses the area given well. Sure it's weird to see so many of these characters cross paths often when the woods is shown as this big place, and it's a little hokey when you recognize certain areas, but that might be more attributed to the original version. A good example of marriage between good staging and cast is when Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen perform "Agony." As the two notably attractive Princes cavort and contort around a waterfall, it's a wonderfully self aware, boy band type of performance. It's goofy, wet, and they tear their shirts open for no reason. It's fantastic. There's plenty of that self aware goofiness here and it works for the kind of fantastical tale Woods tells.  As for the cast itself, every person holds their own with Lilla Crawford and Meryl Streep stealing the show. And in terms of arrangement, every song sounds good and there is nary a faulty note to be found. Although the flowing format of the film means I can't tell you about a specific song (as it's hard to gauge the title when so many songs start and stop over each other), it at least sounds nice. But notably, the songs get away with so much adult content. Johnny Depp gets a neat turn (an extended cameo, really) as a predatory wolf who exploits the inherent sexuality in the Red Riding Hood fairytale. But in most cases, I wished the film would've gone further. In the story there are multiple deaths, inappropriate sexual advances, and violent acts hidden within the songs, but it seems there was a bit of holding back. And this held back feeling clashes with the festival vibe the rest of the film gives off.  If there's one major problem with Into the Woods, it's that while it doesn't care what you think, it really should care a little bit. With no clear stopping points, the film hits a bit of a lull at several occasions. It's not impossible to glaze over certain events, and we'd have a much stronger film had it considered a tighter edit here or there. It's especially noticeable during the third act when you realize the characters have little nuance.  But in the end, Into the Woods is a celebration of musicals themselves. An adaptation that reminds you of the kind of fun you can only get from seeing attractive people sing beautifully. Sometimes, that's all you really need. 
Into the Woods Review photo
I'd visit these woods again
For a Disney adaptation of a popular musical, Into the Woods has flown surprisingly under the radar. Coming out of practically nowhere, and with all of the early advertising hiding the fact that it is a musical, you'd think D...

Review: Annie

Dec 19 // Nick Valdez
[embed]218715:42059:0[/embed] AnnieDirector: Will GluckRated: PGRelease Date: December 19, 2014 Annie is the story of little orphan sorry, foster kid Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) as she's stuck living under a terrible foster parent, Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), and hopes every day that she'll find her real parents. After cell phone mogul and New York City mayoral candidate, Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx), saves her from a hit and run accident, the two pal around for publicity. Through their time spent together, the two realize they think they'll like it here. Then the sun comes out.  A good litmus test as to how much you'll enjoy this latest rendition of the famous musical is the film's opening. After a nice prelude featuring a mix of the musical's well known themes, we're introduced to a little red haired girl named Annie. She tap dances then is mockingly sent to her desk before the newest Annie loudly proclaims how much cooler she is. And that scene sets the tone for the rest of the film as it tries to distance itself as much as it can from its less hip history. As "coolness" influences the rest of the film, we're left with odd remixes, poor musical staging (and very rough choreography), and several new songs produced for the film. It's just a matter of how much you're willing to sit through a film that insults both its source material and the people who enjoy it.  The original songs and new arrangements would've been fine had they not been so badly handled. An overt use of autotune (especially noticeable during the film's atrocious "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here") saps the cast of all energy once they have to lip sync to the robot voices. And it's weird to see more attention paid to one of the film's newer pieces like the song "Moonquake Lake," (which is a theme to a joke that overlasts its welcome after two minutes) than say "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile," which gets pushed to the background the scene after. It's like who ever produced Annie wanted to write an entirely new musical built on Sia sung pop tunes, but had to use the name in order to make any money. There's a noticeable lack of comfort from the cast when they perform the film's songs, and this awkward scenery weighs down what good there is.  It's just a shame because the stuff in between the music is well put together. There is nary a hint of cynicism to be had as the cast is believable. Quvenzhané Wallis is such a good choice for Annie, and her delivery and preciousness is never anything but enjoyable. Jamie Foxx seems to be enjoying himself, Rose Byrne doesn't do much but is charming, and the dialogue is actually witty. Even when it's corny, it's so full of genuine heart, it's acceptable. It's never overbearingly saccharine. The only blip on all of this is Cameron Diaz. A victim of a washed out role, she is the worst portrayal of Miss Hannigan in Annie's many years of production. From a performance that's too cheap for the film (it's way too on the nose even when the film doesn't call for it), to a shoddy new arrangement for "Little Girls" which only highlights her lack of talent.  That's what confuses me so much about Annie. No matter how much I wanted to like it, I was constantly reminded of how I shouldn't be enjoying myself (though kids won't mind either way, really. There are worst films to take your kids to). While there's no cynicism in the story itself, there is a density in the way it's been put together. It's like whoever produced this hated themselves the entire time and wanted us to feel the same way. It's a constant back and forth between enjoyment and self loathing. That's not how I wanted to see Annie. Don't bet your bottom dollar on Annie. There's no sun here. 
Annie Review photo
Full of hard knocks
Remakes are always at a disadvantage. Regardless of the final product's quality, it will always be compared to the film it's adapting. Remakes usually are stuck with two options: Either pay homage to the original and make fan...


See Annie early and free

Washington DC, Baltimore and Norfolk screenings
Dec 10
// Matthew Razak
THE SUN'LL COME OUT TOMORROW! BETCHA BOTTOM DOLLAR! Oh sorry, I suppose you came here not to sing along with me and instead to get your passes to see Annie, which is fine, I suppose. You sure you don't want to sing? It'll be ...
Into the Woods photo
Into the Woods

Listen to the first song revealed from Disney's Into the Woods

Dec 05
// Nick Valdez
With Disney's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods hitting theaters soon, the jig is essentially up. It can't hide the fact it's a musical anymore, especially with recent promotional material finally showi...

Frozen 2 is a thing in the works

Frozen 2: Freeze Harder
Dec 01
// Matthew Razak
Did you think Disney was just going to let the incredible success of Frozen sit there and... well continue to be successful thanks to toys, television and marketing? No, that's not how they play. Idinia Menzel says that ...
Pitch Perfect 2 photo
Pitch Perfect 2

First official trailer for Pitch Perfect 2

"Aca-scuse me?"
Nov 20
// Nick Valdez
I once wrote an article on why making a sequel to Pitch Perfect, one of the most charming films of 2012, was a bad idea. The first is kind of dumb, Glee isn't the juggernaut it was a few years ago, but through all of that, I...
Into the Woods photo
Into the Woods

Newest Into the Woods trailer finally reveals it's a musical

Nov 10
// Nick Valdez
It's not like Disney has been hiding the fact their latest big budget project, Into the Woods, is based off Stephen Sondheim's musical, but they're not shouting it from the rooftops either. With the first couple of trailers ...
Into the Woods photo
Into the Woods

First look at furry Johnny Depp in Into the Woods

Oct 23
// Nick Valdez
As Into the Woods continues to look fantastic with a musical trailer, great outfits, and a bewitching Meryl Streep, here's the first thing that gives me pause. Basically any film that gives Johnny Depp free reign to act like ...
Bang Bang Baby photo
Bang Bang Baby

First trailer for sci-fi musical Bang Bang Baby starring Jane Levy

Wow, fantastic baby
Sep 02
// Nick Valdez
Bang Bang Baby, has both the best premise and title. Starring Jane Levy (Evil Dead) as a teenager in the 60s who hopes to become a singer before a local chemical plant's waste stars mutating the inhabitants of the town. She ...

First trailer for Into the Woods

Jul 31 // Matthew Razak
Into the Woods Trailer photo
Way to completely ignore that it's a musical
Isn't it always the case. You put images up and then a trailer drops almost completely destroying the use of those images. Such is the case with Into the Woods, which has its first trailer here. It looks great, but why does it almost completely ignore the fact that it's a musical? The trailers for Annie did this too. Are studios afraid that people won't show up for musicals?


Best look at Into the Woods yet

So much famous going on
Jul 31
// Matthew Razak
It's hard not to be just a bit insanely excited about Disney's upcoming Into the Woods because it's fairy tales and every famous person every put into one movie. Then they sing! I mean what's not to be excited about. Jud...

Review: Begin Again

Jun 27 // Matthew Razak
Begin AgainDirector: John CarneyRated: RRelease Date: June 27, 2014  [embed]217941:41626:0[/embed] Begin Again is not a new tale unfortunately. In fact the plot initially turned me away from the film as it hints that the emotion, feeling and musical power of Once have been sacrificed here in order to tell a happy message. Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is an alcoholic music producer who has just been kicked out of the record label he founded. On a drunken bender he winds up in a bar where he sees Greta (Keira Knightly) perform and instantly realizes she could be a star. Greta has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Dave (Maroon 5's Adam Levine), after traveling to America with him because he became a big musical star. The two connect as their lives fall apart and decide to put an album together themselves and do it by recording all over the streets of New York. Sadly you can easily tell where the film is going from the start, though thankfully Dan and Greta never become romantically entwined. The characters development is as basic as you can get as they follow the exact lines two people meeting in a movie should. The problem is that this is the plot of a bad romantic comedy and lacks the depth of anything real. Things are just a bit too easy for everyone and where Once felt raw and truthful this feels idealistic and naive by comparison. Don't be mistaken that a film must be sad to be truthful, but the lives of the New Yorkers presented in the movie is the idyllic down on your luck stuff that should be present in lesser films. I say lesser films because Begin Again's music and actors pulls it out of the normal rote material that the plot is. Although never as good as Once's painfully heartbreaking "Falling Slowly" Carney shines again as a songwriter. His music strikes the chords that plot refuses to, hitting emotional beats that would be completely missing if it wasn't there. Knightly delivers surprisingly strong vocals as the main singer and a scene in which her opening song is re-imagined by a drunk Mark Ruffalo is easily the high point of the film.   Ruffalo and Knightly are damn near too charming together, and one of the only parts of the film that rings a bit deeper is their tug of war between romance and friendship. That line plays out far better because the two layer their performances fantastically. Ruffalo's drunken Dan is particularly enjoyable in the first half of the film and Knightly avoids her usual waifishness as she powers through some emotional songs. A lot will probably be said about Levine since he isn't completely terrible, but the singer shows little promise as than a guy who can sing and won't ruin your acting scenes. Anything more complimentary is far over estimating his role in the film. Carney direction is the last piece of the puzzle that makes the film more than its characters and story make it be. That same raw style that was present in Once returns here, and while the idea of recording on the street is the most unoriginal original idea out there it offers Carney the chance to capture New York wonderfully as he films his actors basically rolling around singing. It elevates the already great music into enjoyable to watch music and turns some truly useless moments into at visually pleasing ones. The fact that the story is clearly influenced by his experiences after blowing up for Once doesn't hurt things either. With Begin Again Carney has lost the characters and narrative that made Once such a powerful and stirring movie. However, a fantastic cast, engaging direction and truly good music mean that the movie can elevate itself above its stale story and two-dimensional characters into something else that just can't quite deliver what it really wants to. There's plenty of good to watch here, but this time around Carney's soul seems to be missing. 
Begin Again Review photo
Play it again, John Carney
Director/Writer John Carney is establishing a little nitch for himself in the film industry. A modern take on the backstage musical except now the stage is the studio and the music is far less grandiose. With Once, his academ...


Trailer for Frank starring Michael Fassbender is goofy fun

Jun 20
// Liz Rugg
Frank tells the story of a young musician named Jon who joins a group of eccentric musicians, lead by the enigmatic Frank, a man who makes music purely for the joy of creating ... and who wears a giant fake head all the time...

Second 'Annie' trailer, starring Quvenzhané Wallis and Jaime Foxx

It's a hard knock life for my ears.
May 29
// Isabelle Magliari
Despite Cameron Diaz being consistently grating in her "modern" interpretation of Miss Hannigan, this second Annie trailer is more bearable than the first, and actually makes this remake look like a decent flick. T...

First trailer for Jersey Boys

Is it possible to have every Four Seasons song stuck in your head at once?
Apr 18
// Matthew Razak
Jersey Boys is a pretty easy sell. A musical about the Four Seasons featuring all their greatest hits? Yea, people are going to come out to see that. It could, however, go horribly wrong as adaptations go if they decide...
Annie Trailer photo
The sun will come out this Christmas
When I had first heard about the upcoming Annie remake, Jay Z was producing the score and it was being set up as a vehicle for Willow Smith. Now that it has evolved into a starring role for Quvenzhané Wallis and ...

Pitch Perfect 2 photo
Pitch Perfect 2

Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson returning for Pitch Perfect 2

Feb 10
// Nick Valdez
I highly expected these two to return given how Pitch Perfect's unexpected blow up helped springboard Wilson's career (nabbing her the TV show, Super Fun Night) and Kendrick's single "Cups" made lots of music chart money, but...
Pitch Perfect 2 photo
Pitch Perfect 2

Elizabeth Banks to direct Pitch Perfect 2

Jan 28
// Nick Valdez
Pitch Perfect was a splendid surprise back when it released in 2012. It's funny (but not exactly brilliant), has cool women that do cool things, and the music's pretty fly ("Cups" ended being one of 2013's biggest singles). I...
Frozen  photo

Frozen's "Let It Go" sung in 25 different languages

Jan 23
// Nick Valdez
No, I'm not sick at all of talking about how much I loved Disney's Frozen (put it on all three of my Top X of 2013 lists this year), so of course I'm using this time to gush again. Here we have a video of Idina Menzel's "Let...

A 'Groundhog Day' musical is happening

in which they will worship a rat
Jan 14
// Isabelle Magliari
Yes, that's right. Tim Minchin and Matthew Warchus, the producers behind Matilda the Musical, are teaming up once again to bring the classic 1993 comedy Groundhog Day to the stage.  The original Groundhog Day t...

Nick's 10 Best Movie Music Moments of 2013

Jan 14 // Nick Valdez
Honorable Mentions: Turbo - "That Snail is Fast!,"  American Hustle - "Live and Let Die," Despicable Me 2 - "Happy," We're the Millers - "Waterfalls," Only God Forgives - "Leum mai long," Stoker - Piano Duet, The History of Future Folk - "Moons of Hondo" [embed]217090:41102:0[/embed] 10. "I Swear," as performed by The Minions - Despicable Me 2 Despicable Me 2 had one particularly interesting thing going for it: its Pharell produced score. And while "Happy" nearly made this list because it's damn excellent, nothing beats how the Minions are at peak adorable capacity when they sing All-4-One's "I Swear" (roughly translated as "Underwear"). It's not the fact they're singing it, it's the commitment to the bit that hits home. The white suits, their music video movement, and that final talk to a flower. It's exquisitely cute in a film filled with that same cuteness.  [embed]217090:41103:0[/embed] 9. "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" - The Great Gatsby  While F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a great text, one of its major problems is how it treats the non-White races. Baz Luhrmann's adaptation solves most of the those issues in one scene, and in fact, the greatest scene in the movie. African Americans are only showed twice in the film, once as workers, and once as an elite group of party goers ordering around a White gentleman. It's nice considering they never show up again (and it's using the one song that wasn't originally composed for the film). Gatsby has a very good soundtrack, but nothing tops the marriage of music and visuals in this one moment.  Read our review of The Great Gatsby here. [embed]217090:41104:0[/embed] 8. "Doby," as performed by Will Ferrell - Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Anchorman 2 may not have been anywhere near as funny as the first film, but it has got some classic moments of its own. One of them involves the baby shark, Doby. It's not really the song itself that places it on the list, but the montage that accompanies it. It's been done before, sure, but seeing that crying kid also made it one of the funniest things I saw last year. Swim Doby, you majestic bastard.  Read our review of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues here.   [embed]217090:41135:0[/embed] 7. "The Moon Song," as performed by Scarlett Johansson -  Her Her is the best romantic film that only features one person talking to the screen. At one point, it gets terribly cliche (Theo and Sam go to a cabin), yet it's not cliche and it's wonderfully gorgeous. Mostly because of Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix's duet on "The Moon Song." It's light, heartbreakingly beautiful, and Johansson's cracking voice gives it an especially lovely charm. It's truly a romantic theme that'll last for a long, long time.  Read our review of Her here. [embed]217090:41109:0[/embed] 6. Hum Chant, as performed by Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio - The Wolf of Wall Street This may not count entirely as a music moment per say, but it's got a beat and it's damn catchy. More so than most of this list. At the end of the first trailer, you catch a glimpse of this chant when Matthew McConaughey sings it for a bit. But there's so much more to the scene. There's also a bit toward the end where it's repeated and it's the most guttural, animalistic sound I had heard last year. Every time I want to inspire myself, I'm going to use the exact same chant. It just hits home and makes you believe "F**k yeah! I can do this!" For a song I can use in every day life, there are few better.  Read our review of The Wolf of Wall Street here. [embed]217090:41110:0[/embed] 5. "I'm Free" - The World's End  But why just use a song when you can adapt to your very mantra? That's where "I'm Free" comes into The World's End. In a film that seems to ultimately be about resisting forced change, sometimes you just want to be free to do what you want at any old time. It's not higher on this list because it's more of a thematic overtone rather than a single moment (although I'd love to point out how well it's used in The World's End pub finale), but it's still a wonderfully chosen song. It's a weird nostalgic trip about living out your dreams in the 90s that's being transformed into a theme for any day, any year. Just do what you want.  Read our review of The World's End here. [embed]217090:41111:0[/embed] 4. "Let It Go," as performed by Idina Menzel - Frozen Now if you're talking about a song that says you should do what you want, look no further than Frozen's "Let It Go." Becoming an instantly gratifying addition to Disney's musical repertoire, Idina Menzel finally delivers on her sadly songless performance in Enchanted. This one scene becomes not only the best part of Frozen, but the best animated moment of the year. Elsa singing about finally releasing her worry, creating the ice castle, and changing into that oddly sultry dress is something I ended up replaying multiple times. Although every song in Frozen's catalog is wonderful (the "First Time in Forever" Reprise being a close second), "Let It Go" is going to end up on every fan's "Top Ten Disney Songs" list alongside "Kiss the Girl," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Circle of Life" for many, many years to come.  Read our review of Frozen here. [embed]217090:41112:0[/embed] 3. "Run N*gger Run/Roll Jordan Roll," as performed by Paul Dano/Chiwetel Ejiofor - 12 Years A Slave Now I couldn't decide between two of 12 Years A Slave's standouts because they're both used so well. Both songs are used to capture moments of extreme dread and help drive home what kind of hopeless situation Solomon's in. Paul Dano mockingly singing "Run N*gger Run" is Dano at his career slimiest, but nothing is more heartbreaking that "Roll Jordan Roll." The extended close up, the realization of Ejiofor's face, until Solomon finally gives in and joins the hymn. It's that moment where your heart tears in two. He's stuck and finally releasing some emotion and it's incredibly unsettling.  Read our review of 12 Years A Slave here. [embed]217090:41113:0[/embed] 2. "Everytime,"  as performed by James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine - Spring Breakers Want to talk about incredibly unsettling? Spring Breakers set the stage early on in 2013. After this movie, I knew we were in for a fantastic year of crazy movies. Who knew that it set the trend that each film would defy expectations of its genre moving forward? If the intro or gun fellatio scenes didn't scare you away, you eventually got to the best scene in the film. As Alien (James Franco really turns it out) serenades his lovely trio of bandits with Britney Spears, one of the best montages of the year helps establish hammer the film's exuberant tone if you hadn't figured it out by then. It's just so, so visually captivating. And hilarious. Captilarious.  Read our review of Spring Breakers here. [embed]217090:41114:0[/embed] 1.  "Take Yo Panties Off/When the Shit Goes Down/Paper Planes/Gangnam Style/I Will Always Love You/Backstreet's Back" - This is the End Now This is the End won't be every person's favorite movie (some unfortunately think it's shallow, and they're wrong), but it uses music incredibly well. TiTE has a ton of montages in it, and it's never once terrible. Each song choice is poignant, and most importantly, hilarious. It's also completely ignorable too. When Danny McBride first enters to Cypress Hill's "When the Shit Goes Down" it really doesn't hit home until later why that song was chosen. "Take Yo Panties Off" is Craig Robinson's best song, "Gangnam Style" might be the most dated choice but it only lasts a few seconds, and the final two songs lead to the most sincerely happy and riotous finale of last year. If anything makes me as delighted as TiTE's finale did in 2014, I can die and go to heaven myself.  Read our review of This is the End here.   What are your favorite movie music moments of 2013? Did I miss any of your favorites? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter! While you're at it, why not check out my Top 5 Animated Movies of 2013 list too!
10 Best Musical Moments photo
Music to my ears
I'm a sucker for a good soundtrack. Your film could be the worst thing since sliced bread and I'd still love it if the songs were nice. But the best movies take their song choices (or original works) and use them in spectacul...

Nick's Flixmas: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Dec 21 // Nick Valdez
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a musical that may or not be give the proper credit where it's due. It's a Tim Burton influenced film, but the majority of the film's greatness comes from its director Henry Selick. He's been sadly drowned out over the years in favor of blanket Burton praise, but it's a good movie.When I was growing up, Nightmare wasn't as big as it is today, so I actually didn't see the film until freshman year of high school. It was right about the time when I was budding into different kinds of movies (before that it was mostly Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee, Disney and Godzilla movies because of my dad. It was a weird upbringing) and I was at my friend's house when his mom decided to pop it in.  She asked if I had seen it before, and of course, I pretended I did. So I was all "Uh, yeah I totally have and it's alright." So then actually watching the film, I couldn't really react to it as I pretended I had seen it before. Can you imagine listening and watching the Oogie Boogie Song for the first time and pretending it's not the best thing you've ever seen? It was rough, man. It's also the first time I remember watching a stop motion film that wasn't a Rankin/Bass special. That's why I'm glad Laika is a company that exists. I hope there are kids discovering stop motion for the first time and getting inspired to do things. It's pretty amazing. Sort of like their own "What's This?" musical moment.  There're a bunch of films I couldn't get to, sadly. When compiling my list of 25 movies for Flixmas, there's plenty I thought about but eventually decided against them because, honestly, finding ones on Netflix was easier. For example, I wanted to write about Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Lethal Weapon, Batman Begins, Rocky IV, The Santa Clause, Trading Places, Bad Santa, It's A Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street. But...I just couldn't find my copies on time. But even after 21 days of this, I don't regret what I've seen, only what I couldn't see. There's only so many days. That being said, I hope these final films scratch an itch, and I truly thank you all for reading along these with me.  Tomorrow? Day 22 (and the fourth day of Nick's Flixmas) is all bout Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 
NF: Nightmare photo
On the fifth day of Flixmas my true Nick gave to me...Five Pumpkin Kings
If you've ever stepped into a Hot Topic or talked to a thirteen year old during their "dark" phase, chances are you've heard of The Nightmare Before Christmas. How and why did it blow up the way it did? It's a great film...


See Inside Llewyn Davis early and free

Washington DC screening
Dec 17
// Matthew Razak
This week is just jam packed with screenings for Oscar hopefuls. Today we've got passes for Inside Llewyn Davis, which we loved and also has awesome music. If you're up for a bit of cerebral Coen brothers action than grab the...
Frozen  photo
Legally, of course.
At this rate, Frozen is shaping up to be my favorite movie of 2013. If the above clip of Elsa (Idina Menzel) singing the film's stand out single, "Let It Go," doesn't convince you, then I've failed as a person. Although I said in the review that you shouldn't let it be spoiled for you, there's still plenty else to look forward to.  Go see Frozen already. 


'Cats' movie is a possibility, says Andrew Lloyd Webber

Dec 06
// Isabelle Magliari
Following the success of the Les Miserable film, which grossed $441 million, Andrew LLoyd Webber revealed in a recent Daily Mail interview that Cats may be next in line for a film adaptation.   "I haven’t see...
Frozen Trailer photo
Frozen Trailer

Disney's Frozen trailer gives first taste of music

Idina Menzel, I love you.
Oct 21
// Nick Valdez
This newest trailer for Disney's Frozen (an adaptation of the Snow Queen fairytale) finally gives up the goods: Idina Menzel's voice. She's got the voice of like twenty angel food cakes, and she's such a natural fit for a Di...
Into the Woods photo
Into the Woods

First image of Disney's Into the Woods is bewitching

Sep 27
// Nick Valdez
Now that the amazingly talented (and packed!) cast for Disney's adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods musical has been announced, production has begun toward its 2014 release date. And with that production, Entertai...

Disney's Into the Woods reveals its stellar cast

Sep 17
// Matthew Razak
Disney's Into the Woods is shaping up to be completely and totally awesome as we now get word that the cast for the live-action musical is indeed completely and totally awesome. You ready for this list of A-list celebs, ...

Bret McKenzie writing a fairy tale comedy musical script

Will probably be cute and funny
Aug 08
// Liz Rugg
In an interview with the dudes over at Collider, Bret McKenzie, of Flight of the Conchords and The Muppets fame, revealed that he is in the process of writing a script for a "fairy tale comedy musical" with "singing dragons a...
Into the Woods photo
Into the Woods

Anna Kendrick in talks for Into the Woods' Cinderella

"This is the big one! I'm dyin'! Elizabeth, I'm coming to join ya honey!"
Jun 24
// Nick Valdez
Possibly joining the likes of Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt in Disney's adaptation of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, is Anna Kendrick (most likely thanks to her recent re-showing of her musical chops in the ...

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